An ad for SportMax, a clothing retailer, seen in The Sunday Times Style magazine on 28 February 2021, featured a female model pictured from the side. The model was wearing a long sleeved ankle length black dress with boots.
IssueThe complainants, who believed the model was unhealthily thin, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
Max Mara Fashion Group Srl (Sportmax) t/a Max Mara said they did not agree that the model was unhealthily thin or that the ad was irresponsible. They said the model was well known and chosen for her particular beauty and extraordinary aspect and that she featured regularly in fashion shows for many famous fashion houses. They said she took part in fashion shows in Paris where, since 2017, models who were unhealthily thin were not allowed on the runway.
Max Mara said the model was fully clothed with only her face and hands uncovered and that the image highlighted the lightness and softness of the dress worn, in contrast to the heavy and oversized boots. They said there was no intention to dwell on the thinness of the model or to promote unrealistic and unhealthy ideals and there was nothing in the image which suggested the model had an eating disorder or was pathologically underweight, but rather the elegance and style of the clothing was enhanced. Max Mara provided two other of images of the same model which they said showed she was healthy, with a normal appearance. They said the image communicated a particular style and clothing choice, but had nothing to do with food choices and would not lead people to serious eating disorders.
The Sunday Times Style magazine said they had no comment to make and would await the outcome of the ASA’s investigation. They confirmed they had received no complaints about the ad.
The ASA accepted that none of the model’s flesh was visible. She was wearing a thin maxi length black dress which had long sleeves and she was posed in mid-step, looking down, with her arms hanging down by her side and her shoulder length hair partially obscuring her face. We noted that she was photographed from the side, which drew attention to the shape of her body and highlighted her very thin frame and the protrusion of her hip bone which was visible through the fabric. We also considered that the contrast of the ad’s background lighting, which had a sepia tone, against the black dress, further accentuated the silhouette of her frame and the model’s sombre facial expression and posture gave her a gaunt appearance. We therefore considered that she appeared unhealthily thin. For those reasons we considered that the model appeared underweight and therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Max Mara Fashion Group Srl t/a Max Mara to ensure that the images in their ads were prepared responsibly.